Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Trees

Ann-Christine and I share a love of trees. I’m glad for her challenge subject today.

Much of the wisdom of the natural world is about how to sustain life in harmony with others. It turns out that Trees are no exception. They share a unique kind of communication via threads of fungi and operate as a living community. That discovery changes the way I see forests and individual trees completely. 

“A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate

“It appears that nutrient exchange and helping neighbors in times of need is the rule, and this leads to the conclusion that forests are superorganisms with interconnections much like ant colonies.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

“We have learned that mother trees recognize and talk with their kin, shaping future generations. In addition, injured trees pass their legacies on to their neighbors, affecting gene regulation, defense chemistry, and resilience in the forest community.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World

“If a tree falls in the forest there are other trees listening.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

I feel now more than ever how important it is to conserve larger tracts of land containing whole forests, especially mature growth forests. It’s not enough to plant a tree in the yard. Trees are the lungs of the planet, breathing the oxygen that we all depend on into our world. 

“An organism that is too greedy and takes too much without giving anything in return destroys what it needs for life.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

Have you thanked a forest today?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Out of This World

The Earth is a vastly fascinating place! You may think of rocks and trees and animals as familiar things, but they are often as unknown and otherworldly as specimens from Mars.

Here’s an example of a cave formation in Wind Cave National Park known as “boxwork”. Could be the surface of a distant planet, don’t you think?

Could these be aerial photos of alien landscapes? Or the skins and bodies of alien life forms?

Does this structure look like something you’ve seen before? 

turkey feathers

This one could be a satellite image of life on a distant moon. caterpillarThe startling discovery of unfamiliar living things is possible in your own back yard. Go take a look!

Out of This World

Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance

The Word Press Daily Post Photo Challenge states: “As we sift through fleeting status updates, toss yet another egg carton in the recycling bin, and watch as seasons change around the world, it can seem like life is made of constant change.”

Well, isn’t it?

And maybe, to step outside of constant change is to see constant continuation.  Thich Nhat Hahn doesn’t celebrate his birthday, he calls it a “continuation day”. 

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people. To be born means that something which did not exist comes into existence. But the day we are “born” is not our beginning. It is a day of continuation. But that should not make us less happy when we celebrate our “Happy Continuation Day.” Since we are never born, how can we cease to be? This is what the Heart Sutra reveals to us. When we have tangible experience of non-birth and non-death, we know ourselves beyond duality. The meditation on “no separate self” is one way to pass through the gate of birth and death. Your hand proves that you have never been born and you will never die. The thread of life has never been interrupted from time without beginning until now. Previous generations, all the way back to single cell beings, are present in your hand at this moment. You can observe and experience this. Your hand is always available as a subject for meditation.

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

Continuation and endurance are kindred concepts.  It’s not about effort, it’s about the flow of life: life to life.

And now, for my illustration.  Sequoia sempervirens, the coastal redwood.  Amongst the oldest living things on earth, the species includes the tallest living trees on the planet.  This particular tree is located in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, about 25 miles from the house I lived in as a high school student, where my brother lives now.  It’s nicknamed The Grandfather.


If these trees continue to exist in 50 years, they may exist for a thousand.  If they’re gone in 10 years, they’ll be gone forever. Redwoods reproduce by seed cone and asexually through lignotubers, called ‘burls’.  Redwood burls are beautiful swirls of richly colored wood when they are sliced open.  Unfortunately, poachers take these burls for decorative furniture and cut off the reproductive possibilities.  Here’s an article describing how 2 men were arrested and charged for poaching redwood burls in a National Park.

Redwood Poachers

This May 21, 2013 photo provided by the National Park Service shows wildlife biologist Terry Hines standing next to a massive scar on an old growth redwood tree in the Redwood National and State Parks near Klamath, Calif., where poachers have cut off a burl to sell for decorative wood. The park recently took the unusual step of closing at night a 10-mile road through a section of the park to deter thieves. (AP Photo/Redwood National and State Parks, Laura Denn)

What will endure for the next generation?  How do I choose my path, living in continuation and protecting continuation in all life on our interconnected planet?

© 2014, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

Today’s prompt says, “With an intuitive approach, I considered the photos’ subject matter and graphic attributes and chose those that resonated with each other, creating cross-dependencies and visual analogies. They’re combinations that tell a story.

The resulting dialogue — they story they tell — is the creation of each viewer’s individual perception.

It’s your turn now: for this week’s challenge, bring together two of your photos into dialogue. What do they say to each other?”


Two photos (you can view them in larger format by clicking on them):

What’s in your dialogue?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

Gaaauugh!  Why’d it have to be LOVE today?  Being in a couple relationship is a whole lotta hard work.  Honestly.  Hearts & flowers & violins just aren’t on the horizon here today…did you have to remind me?!  Okay, I’m gonna take another tack completely.  Here it is, my interpretation of love….this is me and a Ponderosa pine in New Mexico.  They smell like vanilla in the sunshine.  Warm, honest, natural love without that mess of human complication: I give you TREES, ladies and gentlemen. 


Sap Rising

Yesterday I went to another Maple Sugar presentation training.  This one was a “Living History” demonstration.  A theater veteran of 35 years took on the persona of “Amos” and told the kindergarteners how he would go with his father and grandfather, beginning at the age of 10, into the woods for a month every year to make maple syrup. When the daytime temperatures are above freezing and the nighttime temperatures still dip below, the sap starts rising in the trees.  We’ve had some very warm nights now, and the leaf buds may already be popping, which means our maple syrup season has been shortened by several weeks.  Once the leaves come out, the sap turns bitter.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup.  You have to keep your fires going continually to boil it down.  One hundred years ago, it wasn’t unusual for a farm to have 700 taps going at once, so collection and boiling was an intense process.  The kids got pulled out of school and lived in the Sugarbush camp while the sap was running; they spent their time making spiles (spouts), tending fires, collecting buckets and stirring buckets of boiling sap.  And they didn’t bathe the whole time!  (Kindergarteners get a kick out of hearing that!)  For extra energy during the work day, they kept a chunk of Jack Wax in their pockets.  This is maple syrup that has been poured out on some clean snow and frozen into a hard candy.  The kindergarteners got to do a taste test, comparing real maple syrup with two different pancake syrups, and sampling maple sugar clinging to a Popsicle stick.  Real maple syrup is not as sweet and sticky as the high fructose corn syrup blends, and it has a more distinctive flavor.  It’s delicious, but it’s expensive because it is very labor intensive to produce.  Here’s another little factoid: squirrels like maple sap.  They climb into the tops of the trees and bite off the end of a twig and just lick away at the running sap.  I have yet to see this, but I’m hoping I might catch my little friend in the sugar maple outside my bedroom window doing just that.

The trails were very muddy out there in the woods, but the moss was very green.  Spring is in the air!

Boiling the sap over a walnut & hickory fire

Just to reassure you, tapping trees for maple syrup doesn’t hurt the tree.  The bark scabs over and the tree keeps producing plenty of sap to stay alive.  Trees that are big enough to hug (36-45 inches in circumference) are big enough to tap…and then to thank with a appreciative embrace!   Enjoy your neck of the woods, wherever you are!

Trees’ Company

I took a walk yesterday; it’s still un(r/s)easonably warm.   One thing I like about this little residential cell in greater Milwaukee is the number of trees.  Here are some shots:

From the ground up: roots...




Sadly, sometimes all that’s left of a great tree is a footprint.

Have you hugged a tree today?  Thanked one for matching breaths with you?  Photographed one for Earth’s Family Album?